Finding Enlightenment in a Unisex Bathroom

If you hadn’t heard, North Carolina is considering revising it’s controversial Bathroom Bill HB 2, which forces people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate rather than the one they identify with. They are revising it, not repealing it. The revisions are crap too. Still discriminatory, still ignorant, still harmful. Now they will require a “doctor’s note” that your gender has been reassigned. Sometimes people can be so awful.

“The discriminatory proposal being offered by lawmakers today does not change the harmful status quo for nearly every transgender person in North Carolina. Many states, including North Carolina, require transgender people to have gender reassignment surgery to update their birth certificates. However, only 33 percent of transgender people actually have gender reassignment surgery. This is due to a variety of factors — including but not limited to cost, age, health and medical needs, and access to skilled providers.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the arguments on both sides of the recent rash of bathroom bills across the country. I’ve read a lot of the arguments for forcing people into the bathrooms that match the biological sex they were assigned at birth. I have not found any of them to be solid or based in and reality.

A lot of it, all of it, is just plain transphobia and homophobia disguised as concern for female safety. They warn of men dressing up as women for the express purpose of raping and molesting women and children.

Pro tip: If men are overwhelmingly in favor of a law they say will protect women and children, that is probably the opposite of what the law will do.

What we seem to be forgetting is that there is nothing stopping rapists and child molesters from doing that now. These doors aren’t locked you know. Hell, men don’t even have to dress up as a woman to get in there, they can just walk in. What we seem to be forgetting is that when it comes to attacks in bathrooms involving Transgender people are the ones at risk, partly because they are forced to use a bathroom they shouldn’t be using!

Obviously, this is about people making assumptions about what gender feels like for other people and deciding the for them what they need or should accept and be comfortable with. It’s a lot like when people think it isn’t possible for lesbians to enjoy sex because a man isn’t involved, or that agender people need to be fixed because having no interest in sex has to be a mental illness, or that all gay men are pedophiles. It’s hurtful, it’s ignorant, and there is no excuse for it.

We forget that there is a natural variation in the ways there are to be a human being and be considered normal. People forget that just because you have never felt this or that way does not mean it isn’t possible for a person to feel that way. People forget that just because you don’t need something to feel comfortable and safe in this world does not mean other people don’t.

People also forget that other people’s genitals and sexual preferences are not anyone else’s God damn business.

Also, fun fact for you, there have been no reported cases of men dressing as women to gain access to a women’s bathroom to assault or harass anyone.

“Where do I go to the bathroom now? It’s literally against the law for me to use the men’s room, and it’s also risky. Even though I’m more than a year on testosterone—I’m getting facial hair, my hair has receded a little—I still don’t always pass as male. Or do I use the women’s room, follow the law, and clearly make people uncomfortable?”

Charlie Comero, a 35-year-old transgender man in Charlotte, North Carolina

To be clear, I am on the side of using whatever bathroom you feel comfortable in. I am also on the side of having more one toilet bathrooms with locking doors for people like me who feel more comfortable peeing alone.

Throughout all of these God awful debates on bathroom usage, I kept thinking: “If only these people could experience the joy and revelation that comes with being free to use any bathroom you like the would understand why this isn’t as big of a deal as they think it is.”

I’ve had the opportunity to pee in just such an environment, and even for me, a pretty open minded, understanding, and empathetic person, it was eye opening.

Here in Denver, there is a gay club called Tracks. Tracks is huge! In fact, the location used to be an old factory. They have at least three, probably more, dance floors, just as many, if not more, bars, and an entire alleyway for a smoking area.

They host huge events every month, drag shows, costume nights, elaborately themed parties, and more. Growing up queer in Denver you know about Tracks, but I had never gone there. I had heard it was loud, and the crowds were large, so I didn’t think it was my kind of place, but one night about two years ago I was outvoted by a few of my friends and off we went to tracks.

When we walked in, I was immediately overwhelmed by the crowd, and as I usually do when I am anxious, I went to the bathroom, and just like my friends always do, they agreed to go with me.

Again, I had had never been there before, but my friends had and so when I went into the bathrooms labeled for “Women” and I was pretty freaked out when my male friends followed me in. Just as I was turning to tell them they were in the wrong bathroom, I saw that there were many men in the bathroom.

Honestly, for a second I thought I was in the right place. It took a few seconds to adjust to my surrounds before I realized the place was filled with people of all genders. There was no “Women’s” or “Men’s,” there are labels on the doors, sure, but everyone went wherever they felt comfortable.

The whole experience made me realize it’s actually kind of nice to be able to pee in whatever bathroom you want. I didn’t have to leave my group; I felt safer, and I felt the relief of not worrying about my, or anyone else’s gender. I’ve never felt that in women only bathrooms. For a genderqueer person who hates being forced to choose under any circumstances, it made me feel normal.

I had a feeling everyone else there felt the same. Two of my male friend were gay, there was my girlfriend and me, and a straight woman, and a straight man, in my group, a pretty good mix of people, and they all agreed that it was better this way. No one in my group felt uncomfortable; no one made them feel uncomfortable.

Everyone in that bathroom was doing what we all do in bathrooms, peeing, washing their hands, primping in the mirror, and taking selfies. No one cared about anyone else’s gender.

NO ONE CARED!

Like most changes that happen in our lives, it isn’t the actual change that is scary; it’s our inability to cope with the fact that something will be different.

Remember all those years before Marriage Equality, when Religious Right-wing Crazies were telling us that “if we let the gays get married the world as we know it would end?” Remember what happened after we legalized Gay Marriage? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The world kept turning, no one got hurt, and a lot more people were happy. It was a good thing despite all our anxiety and whining.

I imagine that if we got over ourselves for one second and thought about the worst case scenario, the realistic worst case scenario, we would see that no matter what gender people are they are going to do the same things we all do in a bathroom. I think we can all be grown up enough, mature enough, and compassionate enough not to make a big deal about it if we try.

So let’s try, shall we?

Let’s try to imagine that things people say they need to feel safe and comfortable are not things that are going to make our lives hard or scary. Let’s try to remember that making people feel comfortable and safe is something we should strive for and encourage, not a reason to spew more hate into the world. Let’s try to remember that people are made of more than their genitals; that people are still people no matter their sex or gender.

Let’s try to imagine that people who are different from us, or need different things than we do, have all the same goals and dreams as us and only wish to make the world a better place for us all.

***

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Lisa

Hello! My name is Lisa. I find the human condition fascinating and I often write stuff about that. I blog at zenandpi.com but you can also find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and if you like what I do, consider signing up for my newsletter. Thanks :)

One thought on “Finding Enlightenment in a Unisex Bathroom”

  1. I’m a cis woman and once, many years ago I went to a fetish event which was held in a function room above a pub. It had its own small bar and two, fairly small toilets – male and female. Fairly early in the night I went to the loo only to find the womens full of men changing into dresses and fixing make-up, leaving no room for me! So I went into the mens, where there was one guy peeing and a free cubical. All I got was a ‘hi’, completed my business and left, without any problems. It was nice.
    Years later, I was at university as a mature student in a new built building. The toilets on the main floor had combined washing facilities and urinals behind a door with the cubicals behind another. A person went into whichever one was needed and washed up outside, it seemed to work.

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